Without a strong commitment to social equity, local governments have moved only part of the way toward achieving true sustainability. The experience of American urban areas shows that inequality and social exclusion are not sustainable practices because they undermine the viability of communities. Thus communities might have programs that protect the natural environment, reduce energy use, and address other aspects of sustainability, but without programs to promote social equity, they are not strengthening their social foundation for long-term viability.
This case study highlights the accomplishments of Durham, NC (Pop. 228,330) in its social equity initiatives. This case study is one of nine developed as part of a U.S. HUD-sponsored research project conducted by ICMA and Arizona State University to identify and describe current activities, leading practices, and achievements of sustainable communities created through a comprehensive, integrated approach supported by inclusive engagement. For more information about this project and access additional case studies and the final report, visit the project page.